Lydia Krause never made scenes, but tonight she longed to rip out the heart of the man approaching their table.
Her neighbor, Peg DiMarco, smiled as she introduced her to the monster. "Lydia Krause, this is Marshall Weill. Marshall, Lydia just moved to Twin Lakes. I persuaded her to come down to Bingo Night to meet her fellow residents."
"It's a pleasure," he said, nodding with the self-assurance of a seventy-year-old male who had retained his trim physique and handsome demeanor. Everything about him was stylish and shouted "designer," from his Italian loafers to the elegant suede jacket.
Marshall Weill? Could she be wrong? More than six years had passed. He stepped closer. Years of running her own company had sharpened Lydia's B.S. sense, and this man was sleaze with a capital S.
She hesitated before shaking his extended hand then wished she hadn't. His palm felt too smooth, almost as if it were slimed with sweat though her hand wasn't damp. She jerked free of his grasp and lifted her hand to cover a false cough. At the same time, she questioned her visceral reaction. Was she suddenly psychic--able to detect sleaze with a handshake, or was her negative frame of mind getting the better of her?
"Marshall's our HOA's financial advisor," Peg offered with pride. "He's also handling several residents' portfolios."
Financial advisor? Portfolios? A frisson ran down Lydia's spine. This couldn't be a coincidence!
The growing certainty that she faced an amoral, malevolent fiend vied with her mind's insistence that he couldn't possibly be the person she supposed him to be. To cover her dismay, she spoke disparagingly.
"I didn't realize the homeowners' association has enough funds to warrant the services of a financial advisor."
Marshall Weill gazed down at her. "Regardless of the amount, you don't want to let money lie fallow in a bank. Put it to work, I always say."
He smiled, revealing a gap between his front teeth. All doubt vanished. Lydia gasped.
"You're Warren Mannes." Suddenly lightheaded, she gripped the edge of the table.
The smile returned, but this time it was forced. "You're mistaken. My name is Marshall Weill."
The fear and anger Lydia read in his eyes empowered her. She'd recently moved to this Eden-like retirement community and felt obliged to protect her fellow residents from the serpent in its midst. She drew herself up and plunged ahead.
"You're Warren Mannes, and you've no business handling anyone's money."
Though she hadn't raised her voice, people sitting at nearby tables sensed something sensational was happening and paused in mid-conversation to gape and listen. Lydia, usually so in control, was too enraged--too outraged--to watch her words.
"You went to prison for stealing millions of dollars from people who gave you their trust. Innocent people, whose lives you destroyed. Not to mention that company you took down!"
He gripped her arm. "Stop it! You've confused me with someone else."
She jerked herself free. "Oh, no, I haven't!"
"Lydia, get a hold of yourself!" Peg hissed, grabbing her other arm. "You're spouting nonsense."
"I wish I were." Her baby sister's face flashed in her mind, causing Lydia to wince in pain. Here stood Warren Mannes, decked out in expensive clothes and a salon hair cut, enjoying a lifestyle paid for with stolen money, while Allison lay dead in her grave!
Incensed, she went on. "Six years ago I attended his trial where victim after victim testified that this man stole their life savings. I'll show you newspaper articles, Peg."
A short, stocky woman who was undoubtedly the man's wife pushed her way through the crowd until she faced Lydia. Her coiffed, stiffly sprayed hair bobbed as she exclaimed, "I hope you're pleased with yourself, exposing a man before his friends and neighbors for a mistake best left in the past."
Marshall Weill/Warren Mannes grimaced. "Thank you, my dear, for making a bad situation worse."
"It's all her fault!" his wife retorted, glaring at Lydia.
Taken aback by the woman's fury, Lydia blinked. Her silence spurred the wife on. Ignoring the pleas of friends urging her not to upset herself, Claire Mannes's voice rose higher.
"Who asked you to move to our quiet community and start trouble? We were happy until you arrived."
Lydia found her voice and her indignation. "I suggest you put the blame where it belongs--on your husband, a convicted embezzler. How dare he handle anyone's finances, here or anywhere else!"
Claire Weill/Mannes drew in such a deep gasp, for a moment Lydia feared she was about to expire. Instead, she retaliated.
"You've ruined our lives! I wish you'd never come here. Better yet, do us a favor and die!"
Furious, Lydia retorted, "Someone should put an end to you, you stupid cow! Open your eyes and face facts. Your husband destroyed lives. He's the guilty one here, only you're the loyal little wife and refuse to see it!"